The continued success of a company is dependent on servicing it’s customers. If a company is not servicing those customers, there is no reason for its existence. Customer service should be the number one, overwhelming commitment that every organisation strives for. And it is the manager’s task to see that his or her staff are dedicated to achieving this goal.
Over half of the customer service horror stories that I hear involve members of management. These are the same people who furiously pound the table, preaching good customer service to their staff, while being abusive towards their customers. For a customer service programme to work within a company it has to be driven from the top down. The managing director has to be a perfect example of good service if his or her directors are to follow suit. They, in turn, must then set the example for senior management, junior management, supervisors and all the rest of the employees.
Where employees see senior managers only paying lip service to customer service, then an attitude of exceptional customer care can’t exist. Lead from the front, treat your customers with the respect that they deserve and watch everyone follow your example.
It really happened …
Johan was the divisional manager of a large division within a gigantic organisation. The group was not known for service excellence and started on an extraordinary programme designed to elevate both the actual service levels and the public’s perception of the improved service. Three years down the line, they had made terrific progress, but there were still problems. Johan was one of these.
On briefing from his seniors, I set up a meeting with him at his offices to discuss the virtual lack of change in service delivery from his division during the past three years. This in the face of dramatic improvement in other divisions. At first it was difficult for me to understand why the problem existed. Johan spoke with fervour about his commitment to customer service and how he had raised it as an issue at each and every staff meeting he held. He never lost an opportunity to hammer home the customer service message.
About twenty minutes into our meeting his phone rang and, with an aggressive grab, he picked it up. ‘I told you not to interrupt me,’ he said. ‘What’s so important?’ He listened for about a half minute, at which point he said, ‘Tell her to go to hell!’ We continued our discussion but, about two minutes later, there was another interruption. This time a knock on the door as his secretary stepped into the room, looking a little scared.
‘What is it now?’ he barked. ‘I told you not to interrupt!’ She apologised and said she knew that, but Mr Smith was still on the line and demanding that he speak to Johan now. I will not repeat Johan’s reply or the language he used. Suffice it to say that he raved, ranted and went ballistic like a spoilt little brat, and then promptly told her to get out before he threw her out.
This obviously required investigation, so I asked Johan what it was all about. ‘It’s about stinking, unreasonable customers,’ he said. ‘They think that they can phone you any time and expect you to just drop everything to speak to them. I run this organisation, NOT Smith. I will get to him when I am good and ready.’
He was in fact wrong. While he thought he ran the organisation, it was actually Smith and the rest of the customers who were the driving force behind the company. While Johan spoke a good game, he didn’t walk the talk, and for that reason nor did his staff. My recommendation was that Johan be replaced as I did not think that his attitude could be remediated.
Talk the talk, then walk that talk. Good customer service is about exceeding the expectations of your customers. Make customer service your top priority and let your staff see this in action. There are no shortcuts, no lip service … only outstanding customer service.
Develop a company mission statement along the lines of: ‘We are dedicated and committed to offering customer service excellence at all levels…’ Then become the number one convert to this philosophy.